The tonic is not the cornerstone of care, and it is quite possible to do without it. Another thing is that tonics are different, and we tried to figure out which tonics can be very useful, and which can be completely bypassed.
In the very first approximation, the idea of the tonic is to restore the acid-base balance after washing, remove the feeling of tightness and remove the remains of the cleanser. Human skin has a pH of 3.5–5.5, and the protective lipid layer that covers it is sometimes called the acid mantle. Washing your face disturbs the acidity of your skin because the surfactants in cleansers are alkaline. The acid-base balance is restored by itself after a while after washing, but the use of a tonic assumes an acceleration of the recovery process. However, scientists and cosmetologists agree that using the tonic after washing does not produce any noticeable effect on the acidity of the skin, so its use in this capacity is hardly justified. In addition, more and more gentle cleansers are available today, and many of them do not contain soap at all. As a result, they practically do not violate the acidity of the skin, and if they do, it is much softer, and it is restored by itself quite quickly.
For tightness and to remove residual impurities after washing, toner can certainly help. But many tonics contain witch hazel and alcohol, both of which irritate and dry out the skin, especially if it is dry and sensitive in its own right. Therefore, if you still want to use a tonic for this purpose, then it is better to choose those in which there are no components that irritate the skin, but there are moisturizing and soothing ones: glycerin, aloe vera or hyaluronic acid. The problem of tightness is easier to solve if you choose mild cleansers, of which there are more and more every year. In addition, there are many cleansers, such as oil-based ones, that remove all impurities and rinse off without leaving any residue. After such, the need to additionally cleanse the skin with a tonic disappears.
In non-professional circles, it is believed that the tonic acts as a conduit for all other cosmetics, but this statement is very controversial. The only obstacle that cosmetics meets on the way to the skin is the stratum corneum and the small distance between skin cells, which does not allow large molecules to penetrate into it. And if the first problem can be easily solved by regular exfoliation, then the second does not need to be solved at all. And an ordinary tonic, for obvious reasons, will not solve either one or the other. In addition, special components are initially added to modern cosmetics, which make it quickly absorbed into the skin, and additional efforts are not required for this.
Many creams contain water-retaining ingredients that act as a sponge to hold water, and when applied to a toner, they actually work better. For example, products with glycerin or hyaluronic acid. If applied to dry skin, there will be no water to hold and they will have the opposite effect. A tonic can act as a source of this water, but with the same success you can apply such creams simply on wet skin after washing.
Nevertheless, against the background of rather useless tonics of the type "water with alcohol and extracts", manufacturers have recently begun to produce an increasing number of tonics with a very rich composition. These toners contain moisturizing, anti-aging, antioxidant and soothing ingredients. Conditionally, essences or toners can be attributed to the same category - thick moisturizing tonics that are extremely popular in Asia. They are not an intermediate, but a completely independent stage of care and are able to moisturize, nourish, protect and smooth the skin. And they have a right to exist on our dressing tables.For example, Estée Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, although called a lotion, is essentially an enriched tonic that contains a lot of restorative and moisturizing ingredients. In a lower price category, there are also plenty of such tonics. For example, Bioderma Hydrabio contains glycerin and niacinamide, which is gaining popularity as an anti-aging ingredient. These rich toners can be the first step in moisturizing for dehydrated skin, especially if it tends to be oily and you prefer light textures.
Another type of tonic - matting and balancing - is intended for oily and problem skin. Their main drawback is that they almost always contain a huge amount of alcohol. Alcohol in this case acts as a drying and antibacterial component. We keep repeating that oily skin is controlled primarily by hormones and to a much lesser extent by lifestyle. Therefore, drying the skin with alcohol and other aggressive ingredients will not help to reduce its oily content, but will only give a temporary effect of cleanliness and dullness. Ultimately, the use of such tonics leads to irritation and dehydration. Moreover, irritated skin begins to produce even more sebum as a protection, and this leads to additional breakouts. Often, such funds also claim to narrow the pores, but this effect is also, unfortunately, only temporary. And the point here is not in the means themselves, but in the fact that, in principle, it is impossible to reduce the pores. It is possible to reduce the appearance of the pores by keeping them clean, but even here there are many much softer alternatives, which will be discussed below.
In addition to moisturizing and matting tonics, there are also exfoliating tonics. Despite the fact that in terms of their action, such funds have nothing to do with tonics, their format and method of application is closest to tonics. They usually contain AHA or BHA acids. And it is tonics from this category that, if you choose the right one, can transform your skin. AHA toners exfoliate the surface of the skin, make it glow and help the subsequent skincare to work more effectively. Toners such as PIXI Glow Tonic, Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner, or REN Clarimatte Clarifying Toner. All of them act very softly, but at the same time they perfectly exfoliate and renew.
And tonics with BHA acids, that is, salicylic, are great for oily and problem skin. And it is they who are able to cleanse the pores, remove blackheads and at the same time not injure the skin. There are not many such alcohol-free tonics on the market, and Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is considered a model. Other products in the same category are the very mild SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Solution or Stridex Soft Touch Pads 2%. The latter can dry the skin, so it is better to use them only locally. For detailed information on different acids and their areas of application, we recommend referring to our monumental material on acids in cosmetics.
Thus, tonics in care are a rather controversial thing and, of course, not the most necessary one. Means with a simple composition based on alcohol do little for the skin and, at best, can only eliminate tightness after washing. However, soft toners saturated with additional components are able to moisturize the skin, nourish it without feeling heavy and act as an independent care product. Acid tonics, on the other hand, can easily replace the usual mechanical exfoliation, smooth out fine wrinkles, even out the tone and cleanse the pores, but at the same time not harm or injure the skin. Therefore, tonic can be a very useful care product if properly selected and used.
Photos: Sergey Yarochkin - stock.adobe.com, shishiga - stock.adobe.com, dusk - stock.adobe.com